Kentucky’s agricultural community has a long history of self-reliance and hard work. It is one of the proudest professions we have here in Western Kentucky, with over 22,000 farms covering nearly 5 million acres of our landscape. The majority of these farms are between 10-180 acres and the values of their yearly sales total under $100,000 on average. This means that while trends and market pressures have pushed to dismantle family farmsteads in preference of over-sized corporate land takeovers, West Kentuckians are still fighting to uphold their way of life and support their communities in the District.
As your Representative for the 1st Congressional District of Kentucky I will work to strengthen our local farmers and improve their ability to advocate for policies that put food on their neighbor's plate and money in their wallets. I will do what I can to promote local farm-to-store cooperatives, so your food doesn’t have to travel as far. I want to create incentives for farmers who diversify and expand the nutritional crops grown in the region, so we are not as dependent on out-of-state markets. I believe that these actions will strengthen our farming community and promote new industry to materialize in Western Kentucky.
The United States of America is the 3rd largest producer of food in the world and the 3% that are farmers feed 100% of our bustling populations. Every farmer in America feeds an average of 155 people worldwide and we perform this action more efficiently than anyone else. In order to stimulate the American Agricultural sector, I propose that we build more agricultural processing centers in regions with high economic agricultural output, like Western Kentucky. I also support the mandate on Country-of-Origin Labeling for beef and declare that we should expand that to all agricultural products made in the United States to promote a Grow American Buy American policy. Finally, Farming instillations should be able to continue to deduct the depreciation of farming equipment, the cost of land improvement, and the expansion of their portfolios from their taxes; something that is planned to do away with in the tax bill proposed by this years' congress.
Nationally, we should be creating programs that promote more people to take up the mantle of farming, whether it be for the sense of accomplishment and pride or for the money, both should be well within reach of the American farmer. Unfortunately, this is not the case today, as the average age of a farmer is roughly 58 years old and does not appear to be falling. This is caused by a multitude of problems that include the high cost of land acquisition/farming equipment and a push for more young people to enter into college-track educations instead of rewarding them for pursuing careers that are more hands on like farming. This means we must find new ways to produce farmland, such as innovative cityscape cooperatives, vertical gardens or hydroponic labs that allow for people to join and share resources to create a more sustainable and profitable environment for all Americans.
The American Society of Civil Engineers grades America's national infrastructure at just a D+ in 2017. Thankfully, our bridges, ports, and rail—some of the most dangerous Infrastructure projects— have slightly higher scores ranging from C+ to B. What this means for Americans is that the systems that keep the lights on and commerce flowing are at risk of malfunctions, car jams, and deadly collapses if we do not take action to revitalize our nations lifelines. Bold new approaches need to be taken in order to make ourselves competitive and safe in the decades to come.
In Western and South Central Kentucky we make the average with the same score, putting it in perfect position to make use of any approach to repairing and replacing some of our country's most damaged infrastructure. With 39 dams in need of major restoration in Kentucky and money not being invested in clearing out flood planes, areas like the Wolf Creek Dam flood zone are still in danger of catastrophic damages and many local roads and highways are in threat of washing out like what happened in Marshall County and Christian County last year. With a struggling electrical grid and spotty broadband access in rural areas, our region lags behind large portions of the country in our connection to modern commodities and vital economic resources to promote incentives to businesses and families to move into the area.
As your Representative I plan to propose a new Infrastructure Bill that would appropriate 1.4 trillion dollars towards major infrastructure projects initially and supplement those with another 3 trillion dollars over 10 years. Using Treasury Bonds from the Federal Financing Bank--a program that has been available since 1973--we will open up an avenue for Americans to directly invest in their own economy. When purchasing Treasury Bonds, the money used to purchase them will not be counted in your taxes at the end of the year and are in a separate category as Charity Donations for businesses. Depending on the length of the Bond purchased, the amount of non-taxable interest returned will be increased every 5 years. This is a voluntary incentive program for U.S. Citizens and businesses in the United States that directly goes to infrastructure projects, circumnavigating the General Fund.
Following in the footsteps of President Eisenhower, a massive input of dollars and focus into our crumbling infrastructure will lead to an explosions of high-paying jobs and increased commercial avenues for all American companies. By investing in new kinds of innovative infrastructure technology, such as longer lasting asphalts, self-repairing bridges and hi-speed railways for commuter transportation, our country can have a smoother and long-lasting ride as we commit to a 21st Century agenda in Infrastructure.
Our veterans are the greatest 1% this country has to offer. When they sign up to fight for our country they write a blank check to the United States that may well include their own life. We owe it to them to make sure that the health and welfare of their mind, body, and soul are taken care of when they return from the missions we sent them on.
Military personnel put their lives on hold for our freedoms and safety. They may put off higher education, starting their own business, or even starting a family to serve our great country. The benefits, care, and respect that they receive when they return home should not be up for debate or weighing on the minds of those veterans when they come home. Programs such as professional training in new careers that carry over from their military specializations, the G.I. protections for college, or business loans and advantages available to those who served should be prioritized and expanded. These programs exist, but using them while in the military is often not possible because of deployment schedules, school scheduling, and the pace of their deployment. We owe them the ability to pursue their passions when they leave the service, whether it be in the trades, attending a four-year university, or creating a unique avenue of the American Dream of their own.
Now is not the time to take funding away from programs like the Choice program and Veterans Affairs, both sorely needed to care for these brave men and women. Since the invasion of Afghanistan, over 50,000 men and women who wear our county’s uniform have been wounded. Some with small arms fire wounds, others with Traumatic Brain Injuries, and some missing limbs, all because their sense of duty led them to answer our country’s call. Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Choice programs ensure that these exemplary young men and women can receive the care they need. There are over 1,243 health facilities in the U.S. under the Veterans Health Administration and their funding is sorely lacking. We spend a little under a quarter on our vets for every dollar we spend on military expenditures and this is not enough to care for our ever growing population of heroes. There is be no reason that these programs should ever become unsure of funding as they were during the summer.
Also, the unseen wounds of Post-Traumatic Stress cause an unusually high number of these men and women to take their own life. This number does not include those that have self-medicated to the point of their bodies giving out. These men and women have seen some of the most horrendous things that humanity can do to itself. It is our responsibility to ensure that they will always have access to the help they need to help them through the most difficult time that they have ever faced in their life. Increasing the frequency of post-military psychological exams, creating a more conducive community environment to return home to and making friends and family members more aware of the signs of stress on our veterans can in ways that can save lives.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, on any given night there are over 39,000 homeless veterans on the streets of our country. This is largely due to the mental illness and self-medication from the unseen injuries to a veteran’s psyche. Improving the mental evaluations and increasing resources to help these brave men and women deal with the memories that haunt them every day and night will go a long way to decreasing this number. Another important way of helping those who have fallen through the cracks is outreach and funding to the communities in which they live to help create sustainable environments for those struggling veterans to to regain their footing. Veterans’ homelessness is a serious problem, one that does not receive nearly enough attention from our lawmakers, and this is an issue we must address using these and other plans.
I know these desperate increases to veterans' care are needed because I am a Combat Veteran myself.
I will fight for my brothers and sisters until my last breath.